Have you ever heard the word "Intinction" before? It's a fancy-schmancy church word that refers to the practice of dipping Christ's Body (a.k.a. the bread) into Christ's Blood (a.k.a. the wine) during the Lord's Supper.
Now, I haven't seen much about this practice posted online from a Confessional Lutheran perspective since it's not something that most of us within the Lutheran church have had to deal with let alone ever experienced before in our lives although it is the common practice with the Eastern Orthodox (and some Catholics) I'm told.
Still, every now and then, a Lutheran church will flirt with changing its historical, orthodox practices of the Divine Liturgy for something "new and exciting" as their emerging and evolving doctrine (and desire to be "Missional" perhaps) influences their practices.
Here's what one Confessional Lutheran Pastor had to say about this practice...
What I think is far less important than what Scripture teaches or what the Christian Church has practiced since its early years. But considering Christ’s institution, Paul’s teaching, and early Church practice, I find several things with which I disagree. Dealing first with your current church’s method of communing, this practice is called “intinction.” It’s the common means of distributing the Sacrament in Eastern Orthodoxy, but generally forbidden in Roman Catholicism unless special criteria are met. Among Lutherans and Protestants of various stripes, intinction isn’t unknown but certainly is not the most common practice. The East also uses leavened bread, while the West generally maintains the Passover’s unleavened. The Word itself and reception in true faith are vitally important. However, anything departing from the essence of the practice Jesus instituted may cause hearts to doubt even if an action isn’t actually “wrong.” Our Lord, clearly recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul, said “eat” and “drink.” This is explicit in the communion liturgy in most of Christendom. Our Small Catechism and hymnals use the following Words of Institution, drawn from the Synoptic Gospels and 1 Corinthians: Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said: “Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.” In the same way also he took the cup after supper, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
Why was all of this on my mind enough to warrant its own blog post today?
Well, because a few weeks ago, the nation bore witness to the nationally televised funeral service for one of our Supreme Court Justices.
As Rev. Peter J. Scaer rightfully observed...
Scalia's funeral is a good lesson for us all. Our weddings and funerals are public witnesses to the world, and for some people, one of the few opportunities when they will enter a church and hear the Gospel of Christ Jesus our Lord. Let's make the most of these opportunities.
Amen! This is most certainly true. For others like me, they are excellent teaching moments too!
See, that Saturday morning was unlike any other in recent memory. I shared the following on my Facebook page while the funeral for the late Supreme Court Justice Scalia played on the TV in the background in my home...
Living in an LCMS District where a majority of the churches here have marginalized the "Divine Liturgy" or "Traditional Worship Service" for the ever popular "Contemporary Worship (CoWo) Service," it was nice to be able to have most of Justice Scalia's beautiful funeral service playing on TV in the background with my kids (my son in particular) in the room. In fact, they were actually drawn to it and had many, many questions about what they were hearing and seeing since they obviously aren't exposed to that on a weekly basis (despite the fact that we attend one of the more faithful and liturgical Lutheran churches in the area). Again, I'm very grateful for such an unexpected opportunity to catechize them this morning! For instance, my 10-year old son commented on the practice of "Intinction" he saw during the Lord's Supper: "Why are they dipping it!?! You don't dip Christ's Body into His Blood like you're at a party or something!" Thanks be to God! I almost fell off the couch and marveled that he not only picked up on that, but that he said what he said about it too! Hmm...and there are many "leaders" in Christianity today who insist that young children cannot possibly understand the simple truths found in the Holy Bible or the simple practices derived from those simple truths practiced in Christ's Church. Anyway, it led to a good discussion about how doctrine (the unchanging Word of God and, in this case, Jesus' very own words about the Sacrament of Holy Communion) always determines what we are to believe, teach, and confess, and that doctrine always informs what we are to practice in His Church. To put it another way (or the way I tried to explain things to him), there's a good reason why we believe certain things and why we do certain things differently than other Christians do. That reason is only ever because of what God's Word clearly and plainly says to us. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." It's all there in black-and-white on the page for each and every one of us to read. It's all there in the Body and Blood of our died and risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, that we receive at the altar for the forgiveness of our sins and for the strengthening of our faith in these unchanging truths.
As a husband and a father who often struggles with doubt as to whether or not I'm "doing enough" to catechize my family here at home as I should, I don't think I'll ever forget that particular Saturday morning and the conversation I had with my son!
Isn't it quite telling how a mere child barely older than 10-years-old can understand the simple truth that he has been already been taught to accept by faith and trust in God's Word so much so that he can use that foundation to then analyze, observe, and question anything and everything he sees in the world around him that stands in stark contrast to such core beliefs, teachings, and confessions? Praise be to God!
And yet, men much more learned than him, and perhaps even trained at Seminaries, prefer to make things much more complicated by taking any opportunity they can to question the Word of God instead, and by stretching it to mean something it doesn't.
One of the best commentaries I've found on this subject from a Confessional Lutheran perspective was a piece written by Pastor Lincoln Winter published only a few months ago in December 2015 in which he writes that the practice of Intinction is disturbingly "a practice that has received much wider acceptance in our synod."
Please allow me to share the entire piece here...
One of the challenges for the success of The Koinonia Project is overcoming disparate practices that are not always merely matters of indifference (adiaphora). In 1944, the synod adopted the following statement: We definitely reject intinction, because while distributing the bread, the Savior said, “Take, eat!” Matt 26:26; Mark 14:22, and while giving the wine, He said, “Drink ye all of it!” Matt 26:27; Mark 14:23. Intinction would be a direct violation of the words of institution. (1944 Proceedings, p. 255)
You can not be clearer, or more succinct than that. The official position of the LCMS – based on the clear testimony of Holy Scripture – is that Intinction is “a direct violation of the words of institution.” Since 1944, this resolution has not been rescinded or altered, because our Lord did not rescind or alter the words instituting the sacrament between 1944 and 2015. We were somewhat surprised therefore, to find a parish in our synod (and as we would discover anecdotally, more than one) that practices intinction as the normal mode of reception. Again, Jesus could not have been clearer. We don’t drink bread. We don’t eat wine. We eat the body AND drink the blood. These are two separate and discreet activities. We are not authorized, nor does the institution of the Lord’s Supper allow, merging these two activities into one. Some may argue, “But there is a long history in the church of doing so.” Indeed there is. But not in the West, which is to say, not in the Lutheran Church. And the practice of Intinction in the East can not be instructive to our practice. It is not human traditions which define us, but the clear and certain word of our Lord, “Take, eat!” and “Drink of it all of you…”
In the West there is a tradition going back nearly a millennium that only the clergy receive the blood of our Lord. This, despite our Lord’s clear command “Drink of it ALL OF YOU.” No matter how clear the command of Christ may be, there will be some who refuse to follow that command. Early church sermons often commend the people for esteeming Baptism so highly, but then warn that they are esteeming it so highly, they are reluctant to actually undergo baptism themselves. No. Just, No. Worse yet, after the Koinonia Project, it was reported to us that the Council of Presidents had a service of the sacrament where Intinction was the only method of reception offered. Some district presidents refused to receive it under these circumstances, and much discussion ensued. That this was even possible means that our synod officials are either unaware of the synod’s scriptural position on the issue, or they are aware, but unwilling to follow it. I am told that the issue has been sent to the CTCR for consideration. Since the CTCR is, like all other boards and officers, subject to the synod, I don’t know what conclusion they can come to, other than the conclusion the synod reached in 1944: “Intinction would be a direct violation of the words of institution.” Perhaps they can explain it in a way that will winsomely defend the clear command of our Lord. But they dare not add confusion where our Lord has made things clear.
And this is the real problem with Intinction. It muddies things; mixes that which our Lord has made distinct. It makes uncertain the proper reception of His body and blood, just as surely as withholding the cup from the laity did for a thousand years in the Roman church. Yes, there are hard cases: Alcoholics, specific allergies, etc. Those are the result of sin. In the case of alcoholism, it is the specific prior sin of the communicant. Allergies arise because of our general sinfulness in this world. But what of it? He has said that this is for my good. Do we trust His word, or do we doubt? Baptism might make a baby cry. I might slip on the ice and break my arm walking into the church. I should not for those reasons stop baptizing babies, or stop attending church for six months a year ‘just to be on the safe side’. The command of Christ is clear. Two things: (Body, Blood) Two actions: (Eat, Drink.) But where God has spoken there is no adiaphora. And that’s the challenge.
On the one hand, some are saying that it is adiaphora, covered under the freedom of the Gospel. After all, God didn’t say not to do it that way. And yet, the very command “Take, eat” “Drink of it all of you” excludes all that is not eating and drinking. For this reason, we have also rejected Rome’s practice of withholding the cup from the laity, even though we have no compelling medical reason to argue against their claim that flesh always includes a certain amount of blood. That may be true. But Jesus said, “Eat… Drink”. He did not say, “Eat my flesh, and in eating also receive the blood.” Neither did he say, “Dip, mix, and consume both at once.” To fulfill the command of our Lord, we must eat and drink. And if we aren’t doing that in our Life Together, it really does call into question whether we are agreed on Augustana Article VII, “The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.” If the sacrament is administered in a manner that directly violates the command of our Lord, is it rightly administered? If we answer that it still could be, our Lord’s Words become optional – with no real authority, and therefore of no real effect. If we say that it is not rightly administered under those circumstances, then we no longer have a church agreed on the Gospel teaching and Sacramental administration. Which is to say, we no longer have the “true unity” spoken of in Augustana article VII, which depends on “the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments.” We can talk all we want about our common doctrinal subscription made in our ordination vows. We can send out missionaries to the four corners of the globe. We can give away thousands of cows, or have millions of dogs visit the sick and infirm. But if we do not follow the word of Christ, we do not have the God-given unity that is the blessing for those who hear the Word of God and keep it. Which is to say, we are no longer “Church” in the biblical and confessional sense of the term.
These are weighty matters. I debated for quite a while whether this should be a public statement or not. After all, to some extent we are trying to have discussions outside of public spotlights, so that we can speak honestly and openly to each other. But this was not a part of that discussion. It was a specific public act of a synod’s pastor. And I have seen intinction suggested and practiced by members and officers of the synod in various places and positions. Synod itself has correctly called the practice “a direct violation” of our Lord’s word. Which means that those pastors who practice it are not only in violation of their vows to keep the Word of God pure, they are also violating the bylaws and resolutions of the synod. Of course, the second is the far lesser offense. But those who engage in it show either a lack of knowledge regarding who we are and how we have spoken with one voice on matters doctrinal in the past, or they show a lack of integrity toward that voice, and to God’s word, which informed our speech. The latter arises from ignorance. It is excusable, and can be fixed with proper instruction. That is what I seek to do here. As for the former? I pray that God would “curb those who by deceit or sword would rest the kingdom from your Son, and bring to naught all He has done.”
He's absolutely right in all that he wrote.
In fairness, however, I should also mention that others have pointed out that the "official" position of the LCMS seems to contradict these points (or at least leave the debate open and unresolved).
Regardless, I hope that I have adequately shown that Intinction is not something that we should be practicing in our churches whether Lutheran or otherwise, because it is not Biblical whatsoever.
Now, as thankful as I was to have been given the opportunity to have this unexpected conversation with my son several weekends ago, we need to keep in mind that the doctrine that informs the practice of Holy Communion in the Catholic church is one of the major stumbling blocks between us and them, and I simply must add a few words about that here before wrapping things up.
As another Lutheran Pastor wrote back in 2011...
It’s important to view the Sacrament rightly. The Roman Catholic understanding of the Mass is that it is man’s sacrifice to God, man’s work done for God to merit the forgiveness of sins. But the Lutheran, Scriptural teaching of the Mass is that it is entirely God’s work done for us. We are on the receiving (the “drinking”) end, not the giving (the “pouring out”) end. Christ did not set up another Law in this Sacrament, as if, by our meticulous obedience, we earned his forgiveness, or as if, by our failure to observe the non-essential details of the institution, we incurred His wrath. “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). The only “service” we render to God in the Sacrament is the worship of faith – faith in his words that we are truly receiving his body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. By faith in Christ, who did all things in the right way for us, we are rescued from the burden of having to do the right things in the right way in order to become righteous before God. ... We are not minimalists in the Lutheran Church. We don’t ask the question, “How little do we have to do to get by in following Christ’s words and institution in order to have a valid Sacrament?” Instead, we simply stay as close to his words as possible, and rejoice in the blessings we receive through them. ... In all honesty, the past 50 to 60 years have largely been an era of “experimentation” for Lutherans in the United States, an era in which the historic practices of the Church have been downplayed, criticized, and, in many cases, abandoned in favor of “trying something new,” either to “blend in better with the culture” or to be more “pragmatic,” or simply out of boredom with traditions they never understood. This infatuation with innovation has affected Communion practices, worship practices, and evangelism practices, to the point that even our very theological underpinnings are jeopardized. More often than not, the wisdom of our elders has proven to be wiser than our presumptuous innovations. We shouldn’t have been so quick to assume that we were wiser than the Church that has gone before us.
Bottom line? In light of all these important points concerning the Lord's Supper, I thank God for giving my son the eyes to see the truth so clearly at such a young age.
May He impart to each and every one of us the very same measure of grace and godly wisdom.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, this is why doctrine matters, because doctrine always informs practice, and practice reinforces what we actually believe, teach, and confess.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Executive Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 2 years ago now. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!